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Until The Lions Have Their Own Historians (Trayvon Martin On My Mind)

Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

~ African proverb

I've been staying silent on the George Zimmerman trial.  But really, why are we calling it the "George Zimmerman trial" when in fact Trayvon Martin's on trial, and he's dead? Just as in the African proverb, George Zimmerman, the hunter, is being glorified enough to be acquitted.  I understand the difficulty of the prosecution's task -- disproving Zimmerman's self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt in a state that has a "stand your ground" law.  It would be the height of irony and cruelty if the "stand your ground" law allows you to stand your ground and defend yourself against a confrontation that, but for your own actions, would never have happened, especially since it involved a teenage boy.

I feel so much for Trayvon's parents.  I've seen this movie before.  My family has its own George Zimmerman.  His name is Christopher Allen Smith, he is white, and he killed my cousin Gidd Robinson in broad daylight in front of his kids.  But for Gidd's mother, Gidd's fiancĂ©, and our huge extended family banding together and putting pressure on the Yolo County District Attorney's Office to prosecute, Christopher Allen Smith would have gotten away with it.  Like George Zimmerman, Christopher Allen Smith was in his vehicle at the time the events leading to a homicide occurred and could have driven away.  Like George Zimmerman, Christopher Allen Smith decided to confront someone because he didn't like what he saw.  Unlike George Zimmerman, Christopher Allen Smith stayed in his truck and, shooting across the passenger seat and his own child, shot my cousin, who was walking his daughter to school, because my cousin allegedly flipped him off.

In the case of my cousin, the story as my family understood it was that he was walking his young daughter to school, and Christopher Allen Smith was speeding down the street.   My cousin yelled at him to slow down because there were children out.  Instead of going on, Christopher Allen Smith turned his truck around, got into a yelling match with my cousin, and, allegedly thinking my cousin had a gun, reached over the passenger side of his truck and across his own seven year-old son and shot my cousin.  Then he sped off, dumped the gun in the river, and rubbed his hands in mud to get rid of the gunshot residue.

Just like Trayvon Martin's murder, the case made no sense.  Initially, the Yolo County District Attorney's Office didn't want to prosecute because they believed my cousin, who did have a criminal record, had a gun that he had thrown in the bushes or disposed of in some way, although searchers never turned up a gun.  Then they didn't think they could prove that it was unreasonable for Christopher Allen Smith to believe that my cousin had a gun, in other words, that his claim of self-defense was imperfect and would support a murder charge.

But it didn't make sense.

My sister argued in a meeting with the Yolo County D.A.'s attorneys and staff, "It doesn't make sense.  If Christopher Allen Smith was in the driver's seat of his truck, and the passenger side was closest to the sidewalk where my cousin was, and if he thought my cousin had a gun, why didn't he just hit the gas and drive away?"  We all reasoned that in the time it would have taken him to reach in his glove compartment, pull out a gun, and shoot across his own child to repel some supposed threat, he could have hit the gas and taken his child to safety.  What person shoots a gun across his own child when he can more easily flee to safety?  And what person who has just been shot in the chest area is able to dispose of a gun or is even thinking of disposing of a gun?  It just didn't make sense.  Until the time that our extended family (which is huge) started meeting with the Yolo County D.A.'s office, the focus was on my cousin's criminal background and their belief that they could not prove imperfect self defense., i.e., that Christopher Allen Smith's belief that my cousin had a gun was unreasonable.  And they had no murder weapon.

It took Gidd's mom and Gidd's fiance, both of whom were strong like Trayvon's parents, and my huge extended family, including Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) grilling the Yolo County assistant district attorneys and investigators as to why this wasn't being charged as a hate crime and why the FBI had not been involved, to eventually get the FBI involved.  My understanding is that the FBI eventually found the murder weapon, and the Yolo County D.A.'s investigators found the evidence needed to show that Christopher Allen Smith frequented white supremacist websites and had an arsenal of illegal guns.  If it hadn't been for Gidd's mom and his fiancĂ© standing up, relentlessly pursuing justice, and getting the extended family involved in two meetings with the Yolo County D.A.'s office in which we relentlessly questioned them about the evidence, I doubt that Christopher Allen Smith would have been prosecuted, despite his highly implausible claim of self defense.

So as I watch snippets of the Trayvon Martin trial -- I can't bear to watch the defense not only make a mockery of Travyon's murder but make a mockery of the criminal justice system by starting a murder trial with a knock-knock joke -- who does that? -- I am reminded that justice isn't blind.  I am reminded that, when it comes down to a racist's claim of self defense in killing a person of color, unless the victim has his own "historians," the murderer gets to glorify his claim of self-defense.  I am angered that this trial has come down to whether a scared teenager attacked someone who was following him when that follower was clearly instructed by a 911 operator not to confront the teenager and was not in danger at the time he decided to follow the teenager.  I am angered by the defense stating that Trayvon inserted race into the matter by calling Zimmerman "a creepy cracker."  I am angered at the prospect of someone creating a situation where they can confront someone for no reason and, when the situation turns to their disadvantage, they can "stand their ground" and shoot the person they confronted without reason.  I am angered that the defense called for four minutes of silence and said, "That's how long Trayvon had to run," as if running would have saved his life.  This history of black men getting shot in the back for running in this country is long and sordid.

Other than the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon, Trayvon doesn't have a "historian" to tell his side, allowing the Zimmerman defense team to glorify the hunter, George Zimmerman.

If both Christopher Allen Smith and George Zimmerman had simply driven away, two people would be alive today.

I'm not hopeful for a conviction in this case, and I'm sad for Trayvon's parents because, no matter what, they'll never see their son again.  There is a twist to all this if Zimmerman is acquitted, as BMNB put it:  "If he gets off, he'll be about as safe in America as Trayvon was."

The hunter may well indeed become the lion.  Better have his own historian.

For more on the murder of my cousin, visit here.


Goddess said…
because it is not too difficult for a black person to understand the case of Trayvon's behavior, the confusing and misinformed story is told by the disinterested to the public. since so many believe what the media proposes, it is take as truth. i am ashamed to know this still goes on. i am ashamed that certain privileges have made not only our citizens but our judicial system blind to the real story... the story of racism (which is alive and kicking) in our country.
one thing i can take away from your story BWB is that you have to push hard. you have to be loud. you have to DEMAND to be heard when a person wronged no longer has a voice to speak. as well, you never give up. your family did it for your cousin and with the expanded family Trayvon has gained since his murder, my prayer is that justice prevail.
z said…
it doesn't make sense. thats the key. for many people with no experience with young men like trayvon, it makes perfect sense that this kid did what Z said. but to me, it is unbelievable that a 17 year old black kid, walking by himself would circle back and walk around a white man in a truck. if i were the detective, i would have been all over that. i'm a 33 year old white man, and i feel uncomfortable if a car simply drives past me while i'm taking the garbage out in my own neighborhood at night. i know trayvon was scared out of his mind and would NEVER have done that. rachel's testimony proves trayvon's state of mind at the time, he was scared. no scared teenager is going to come back to be some kind of badass and staredown an unknown person in a truck. the lies of zimmerman, about trayvon looking into houses, circling the truck, trayvon saying "you're gonna die tonight" (did he get that from a movie???), about where the "attack" happened (vs where the body ended up), to me these were enough to discredit his entire account of the incident, leaving rachel as the only credible witness of the beginning of the altercation. coupled with rachel's testimony, it would not be unthinkable to me to charge zimmerman with felony assault or false imprisonment, with a homicide committed during the commission of a felony on top. truly, i don't blame the jury. i blame the state attorney and police. i mean, why take a person at their word when they just killed someone? of course he's going to say he did it in self defense. who is going to say to the police "I thought this guy was doing something wrong, so i overdid it and went after him and placed him in fear of HIS life and so he rightfully started punching me and so i shot him". of course the guy is going to say self-defense. it takes a little imagination to figure out what is really going on. you have to assume the suspect is going to lie and twist and mitigate their action in a million ways. if you stick with it, you can get their story to unravel. but it starts with that "it doesn't make sense". thats what the police and state attorney didn't have, and thats what saved Z's backside.
smith said…
I keep arguing with my friends, they think I'm crazy. The more I think about this case, the more I'm amazed by the disconnect. Its amazing how "we" can have so much understanding for GZ and believe his account so easily, but can't reserve any benefit of doubt for Trayvon. To be honest, I used to be one of the white people who didn't understand a damn thing about black people, saying "Why do they need BET? Thats like us having White TV". Not one of my friends has said anything like "Wow, can you imagine how scared that kid must have been?" They actually made the argument that there was something suspicious about Martin that night. Its so frustrating. Anyone would be scared out of their mind for a car to drive past them, slow down, park, driver staring at them walk past the car, back out, continue to follow, and have the driver exit the vehicle and show up once again on foot. I don't see how that is not an assault in and of itself. Also, I was really disappointed that no one picked up on the most important testimony in the trial, Jeantel's account of the beginning of the confrontation. It clearly contradicted GZ's account, and it was brushed aside because they didn't like her demeanor and the way she spoke. Argh!
Anonymous said…
I'm in Chicago, so hadn't heard of your cousin's murder until reading it here. Based on the eyewitness accounts, it is shocking that you had to twist the prosecutor's arm and get the FBI involved. I'm so sorry for your family's tragic loss.

I'm white. I've learned a lot in the last few years since Barack Obama has been elected. I've learned is that the United States is far from being a "post-racial" society. Most white people view themselves as being color-blind. That is a nice (banal) sentiment, but it's a belief that instead ensures that one racism-blind.

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